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Federal Indian Boarding School report shows 53 child gravesites across the nation

boardingschools Roberts mission.jpg
American Heritage Center
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Dr. John Roberts seated to the right of the group started Robert's Mission in 1883. Students are all wearing moccasins.

On March 11 the Secretary of the Department of Interior Deb Haaland updated the nation on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This is the first report from the initiative that started last year.

The U.S. government forced Indigneous children into reeducation schools from 1819 to 1969 as an act of assimilation according to the Department of Interior’s report. Federal investigators found that out of 400 Indian Boarding schools across the nation, 53 gravesites across 37 states have been documented.

Haaland said the country must preserve native languages and invest in support services for Indigenous peoples.

“We must bear witness to the stories of American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiann people,” she said during a press conference, “I come from ancestors who endured the horrors of the Indian Boarding assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now lead.”

The report said the schools used identity altering tactics, including changing the childrens names to English ones, cutting traditionally long hair, and preventing Indigneous languages from being spoken.

Bryan Newland leads the investigation and said during the press conference that this issue has been ignored for too long.

“While generations of Indian and Native Hawiaian children entered these boarding schools, many died. Often far from their homes and families,” he said.

To protect the grave sites from vandalism and theft the report said they will not release locations of the gravesites. Many more graves are expected to be found as the investigation continues.

There were six Indian Boarding Schools in Wyoming. One of the first was Robert’s Mission on the Wind River Reservation.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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